Manchester concert attack

British MPs slam MI5 for missing opportunities to stop Manchester Arena bombing

  • Domestic security agency missed chances to stop the bomber, who killed 22 people leaving an Ariana Grande show in May 2017
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 November, 2018, 9:01pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 November, 2018, 9:01pm

MPs investigating Britain’s 2017 terror attacks said Thursday that the MI5 security service missed key opportunities to stop the Manchester Arena bomber.

Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee, a cross-party panel of lawmakers that scrutinises the work of government in these fields, slammed communications service providers (CSPs) for giving terrorists a “safe haven”.

The ISC also said their recommendations on previous failings had gone ignored.

Britain suffered five terrorist attacks in 2017: at Westminster, London Bridge, Finsbury Park and Parsons Green in London; and at the Manchester Arena, where 22 were killed in a suicide bombing.

Thirty-six people were killed in total in the attacks.

The Manchester Arena attack, as concertgoers were leaving an Ariana Grande show, was perpetrated by 22-year-old Salman Abedi, a Mancunian of Libyan descent.

The ISC’s report said the MI5 domestic security agency missed chances to stop Abedi, moving too slowly after his case had been flagged for review and failing to consider him for referral to the anti-radicalisation scheme.

Abedi also visited an extremist contact in prison on more than one occasion but no follow-up action was taken by either MI5 or the police.

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MI5 did not place travel monitoring or restrictions on Abedi, meaning he was allowed to return undetected from Libya to Britain shortly before the bombing.

“There were a number of failures in the handling of Salman Abedi’s case and while it is impossible to say whether these would have prevented the devastating attack on May 22, we have concluded that, as a result of the failings, potential opportunities to prevent it were missed,” the ISC said.

Responding to the report, UK counterterrorism police said they would study the report’s findings “carefully”.

“We are deeply committed to learning so that we can refine our response to the evolving threat,” he said.

The committee found 12 “cross-cutting issues” which played a part in at least two attacks.

On explosives, “the system for regulating and reporting purchases of the ingredients used to make explosives was hopelessly out of date in dealing with the threat posed,” it said, adding that it had facilitated the perpetrators’ actions.

Meanwhile appeals to CSPs to tighten up their loopholes had fallen on deaf ears.

The committee said that four years ago they concluded that CSPs were failing to stop their systems “being used as a safe haven for extremists and terrorists.

“Yet we have seen that appeals to these companies’ sense of corporate and social responsibility have not resulted in them making the changes required – and again these loopholes were used by the perpetrators of the 2017 attacks.”

The committee concluded that MI5 and counterterror police wanted to learn from past mistakes and their determination was impressive.

However, “we have previously made recommendations in all of these areas, yet the government failed to act on them. The lessons from last year’s tragic events must now result in real action”, the report said.

The probe did not fully cover the bomb attack on a London Underground train at Parsons Green station, because the Home Office interior ministry did not provide full evidence in time for the inquiry.

“From what we have seen to date, there were fundamental failings in the handling of this case,” the committee found, saying the “litany of errors” by the ministry, the police and the local authority necessitated a separate review.